On Tuesday night, St. Thomas Episcopal Church kicked off its first Peace Camp -- a three-day program geared toward teaching children about what it means to be a peacemaker in today's world.
"Children over the course of three days are going to be talking about peace within, peace with others and peace in the world," said Aneya Elbert, ministries coordinator at the College Station church.
The new camp is for children in pre-K through sixth grade and focuses on using kid-friendly activities to facilitate topics such as peace and conflict resolution. Elbert said she got the idea for the camp from a colleague who hosted a similar program at an Episcopal church in Chicago.
"[The] name, Peace Camp, it draws people in regardless of your religion, regardless of your religious experience or what church you go to," Elbert said. "So, that was my hope as well."
Elbert said the event's curriculum mirrors programs from Little Friends for Peace, a nonprofit whose mission is to "counter violence and contribute to a worldwide culture of peace by sharing skills to prevent, resolve and transform conflict with individuals, families, teams and communities."
On the camp's inaugural night, children enjoyed activities such as a sing-a-long and story time, during which they sang about peace and explored what peace means in different cultures and languages. The night also included kids moving from room to room to take part in activities such as mindfulness meditation, kid yoga and quilt-making.
Nine-year old Rowan Seipp said his favorite part of the night was coloring quilt squares, which will be sewn together to make quilts that will be donated to women at the Magdalene House of Austin.
"I think it's great ... the idea that people are coming together to celebrate peace," Seipp said.
Peace Camp also encourages parents to take an active role. While campers were participating in activities, parents listened to Denise Trevino, who is the missioner for intercultural development with The Episcopal Diocese of Texas in Houston. Trevino talked with parents about how to facilitate diversity and inclusiveness within a church setting.
Local counselor Jeremy Dew -- who specializes in children, adolescent and family counseling -- will join parents for a parenting workshop tonight and Thursday.
Additional events for the week include a lesson on nonviolent conflict resolution, a showcase of community peacemakers and a children's concert with songwriter Will Parker. The College Station Police Department and members of the College Station Fire Department will join the campers on the final day to talk about their roles as everyday peacemakers.
St. Thomas member Elizabeth Mufich volunteered at the first night of the camp and also brought her children to enjoy the festivities.
"I love the message of being a peacemaker, especially in the climate we're living in today," Mufich said. "I think starting young with our children to ingrain that in them is a good way to raise [our] kids [so they] learn that working together is so much better than being apart."
Elbert said she hopes to host more Peace Camps in the future and help mold a new generation of peacemakers.
"We would like to continue this and make it an interfaith experience and show that we can all live together in a peaceful way, and how do we do that? It starts with teaching children," Elbert said.